Accident-prone curve lies south of Town Hall
By Dan Moffett
Months of persistence in dealing with state transportation officials has paid off for Manalapan.
Well, at least partly paid off.
Police Chief Carmen Mattox got a call from the Florida Department of Transportation just before the Oct. 22 commission meeting with news that the state has agreed to install speed monitoring signs at the accident-prone S-curve on A1A a little more than a mile south of Town Hall.
They won’t be the flashing warning signs that Mattox wanted. But they will be motion-activated signs that display the speeds of approaching northbound and southbound drivers.
“After a year and a lot of pushing and jumping over certain people to get us to this point,” Town Manager Linda Stumpf said, “we’re going to be getting speed monitoring signs. It’s a good start.”
Stumpf said she expects the signs to be up and running by the end of January. It will be the town’s responsibility to maintain them.
Results of a recent speed study gave the town some compelling talking points to use in making its case to FDOT.
The study found that, in general, 92% of vehicles entering the so-called Bentley Curve — named for the considerable number of luxury cars that have crashed there — are going over the posted speed of 25 miles an hour, about 50% of them at least 29 miles an hour.
Traffic engineers believe the greater the speed over 30 mph, the greater the likelihood of off-the-road crashes.
During nighttime hours, which has been when most of the worst accidents occurred, the number of drivers faster than 25 mph swells to 97%.
About 2,400 vehicles go through the curve every day. And the traffic mix of a residential neighborhood complicates the picture.
“The roadway is frequented by vehicle, bicyclist and pedestrian traffic,” Mattox told FDOT officials in an October letter. “There are no sidewalks in this area.”
Another complication is the difference between the state’s enforceable speed limit and the advisory posted speed.
Mattox wanted the state to make 25 miles an hour the enforceable limit, not just the advisory speed, so his officers could stop and cite violators. But the state has steadfastly refused, saying the enforceable speed limit would remain at 35 miles an hour.
In other business:
• The professional life span of town managers among coastal municipalities is often more accurately measured in months than in years.
Stumpf, however, is a notable exception. She just signed a five-year contract to work for the town through 2024, which will give her 15 years on the job.
Mayor Keith Waters said continuity was a more important factor than longevity in signing Stumpf for the long haul. Town Clerk Lisa Petersen plans to retire in three years, so Waters said he wants future commissions to have experienced staff as long as possible to guide transitions.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure we have a very clear succession path as to how the town is going to continue to operate,” Waters said. “So a five-year window works very nicely.”
The new contract calls for paying Stumpf a base salary of $140,028 in the first year and the same amount plus cost-of-living adjustments during each of the next four years. Her previous salary was $134,642.
• Commissioners approved a holiday schedule that sets their monthly meetings for Nov. 12 and Dec. 10, at 10 a.m. as usual.